ISIS remains active after al-Baghdadi's death

Although two years have passed since Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death, ISIS mercenaries are still active in the regions of Syria occupied by the Turkish state.

Despite the death of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi two years ago, the group’s cells are still active in many regions of Syria and Iraq. Many states, especially Turkey, continue to support the group.

In 2014, ISIS spread to the most important regions of Syria and Iraq. The question emerged as to how the group spread so quickly and took control of the regions. It was not possible for an armed group to emerge and spread overnight.

It was revealed later on that there were economic relations and oil trade between ISIS and the Turkish state. Moreover, some media outlets described Erdoğan's son, Bilal Erdoğan, as the “minister of ISIS oil”. The Turkish state gave overt support to ISIS to occupy many regions of Syria and to play a major role in the oil trade.

ISIS recruited thousands of mercenaries crossing the Turkish border into Syria. Foreign mercenaries coming to Syria were hired by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. Recruitment of foreign mercenaries was also covered in many intelligence and press reports. The Nordic Monitor news site, based in Sweden, has published two reports on the subject. One of those reports pointed out a confidential report of US military intelligence in June 2016, which stated that the Turkish state and Qatar supported ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra groups.

The report revealed the secret coordination between the Turkish state and the violent radical groups in Syria and expressed concern over the Jabhat al-Nusra group that consisted of 10,400 fighters. The report also gave information on how the group, which later changed its name to “Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham”, carried out its logistics activities.

A previous report by the Nordic Monitor and Dutch intelligence confirms that ISIS used Turkish territory as a strategic base for training its fighters. Moreover, thousands of ISIS fighters crossed from Turkey to Syria and Europe.

The report also points out that Turkish intelligence members forwarded Erdoğan's policies to ISIS officials in a meeting. The German magazine Der Spiegel published documents which proved that ISIS used Turkey as a transit country. The killing of al-Baghdadi in the Turkish-occupied Syrian territory also attests to this truth.

When the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) liberated many parts of North and East Syria from ISIS on March 23, 2019, most of the mercenaries fled towards Turkey.

The US carried out an operation in the demilitarized zone on October 26, 2019 and killed ISIS leader al-Baghdadi with the intelligence information provided by the SDF. This region was 'administered' by the Turkish state.

Another incident that may prove the Turkish state's support for terrorism was the killing of senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar in a US airstrike on October 22 in the Turkish-occupied town of Suluk in northwest Syria. According to a spokesperson of the US Central Army Command (CENTCOM), the terrorist organization may carry out a new attack for retaliation.

This operation took place two days after the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS attacked a base in southern Syria. Furthermore, the Pentagon killed a top al-Qaeda leader, Salim Abu-Ahmad, in an airstrike in the north of Idlib at the end of September.


Islamic Movements and International Terrorism Expert Mûnîr Edîb spoke to ANHA about the killing of both terrorist organization leaders in the areas occupied by the Turkish state and the regrouping of mercenaries. Edib stated that the Turkish state protects radical groups in areas under its control.


“The international community directs the criticism that Ankara endorses radical organizations. The role of Ankara has indeed been revealed by its support for these organizations. The fact that these operations are carried out in areas under the control of the Turkish state also proves its support to these organizations,” Mûnîr Edîb said.

The Turkish state claims to be fighting ISIS. Moreover, it seeks recognition in the world. However, the killing of an ISIS leader in Turkish-occupied territory proves that it strongly supports and defends ISIS.

Former US President Barack Obama launched the fight against ISIS in Iraq on August 7, 2014. He gave permission to an attack on Syria on September 10 and later initiated a global coalition consisting of 20 states.

After the SDF liberated Baghouz in eastern Syria on March 23, 2019, it announced the territorial defeat of ISIS. The SDF, the Iraqi army and the International Coalition, however, warned that ISIS still posed a danger to the world.

After the territorial domination of ISIS came to an end, the mercenary leaders reportedly resettled in other parts of Syria under the occupation of the Turkish state.

“The Turkish state not only supports violent and radical groups, but also accuses those who oppose to its policies. The policies of the Turkish state and its support for the political Islam project are manifested each day. Instead of avoiding these accusations, the Turkish state is pursuing a different policy. Since Erdoğan became president, the policy of the Turkish state has been based on accusing its rivals of supporting terrorism,” Edîb noted.


Edîb pointed out that the Turkish state is posing an obstacle to defeating terrorism, adding, “Huge support is provided to radical groups. Turkey and some other states played a major role in the disruption of the process by defending these organizations, often avoiding their elimination. As a result, radical terrorist groups have continued to organize themselves, while shortcomings have emerged in the fight against terrorism.


“The international community has a major role in the fight against terrorist organizations. If the international community does not expand its role and stand against the states that support terrorism, it may eventually lose its power to prevent terrorism. In my opinion, Turkey is one of the states that support and defend radical terrorist organizations. The international community should first of all stand against the Turkish state and prevent the support for terrorism,” Edîb noted.

“The international community should be serious about its fight against radical terrorist organizations. It should stand against the states that support terrorism, particularly the Turkish state,” Edîb concluded.